TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. THE WORD - JOHN 1:1-18
A. The Same but Distinct From God
B. The Agent of Creation
C. The Agent of Salvation
D. The Visible Manifestation of God’s Presence
E. The Agent of Revelation
F. The Seal of the Covenants
G. Other Important Points
II. THE TWO GENEALOGIES OF THE MESSIAH - MATTHEW
1:1-17 AND LUKE 3:23-38
A. Why Two Genealogies?
1. The Requirement for Kingship in the Kingdom of
2. The Requirement for Kingship in the Kingdom of
B. The Genealogy in Matthew - 1:1-17
C. The Genealogy in Luke - 3:23-38
D. Titles of the Messiah
III. THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE
BAPTIST - LUKE 1:5-25
A. The Service of Zacharias as Priest
B. The Appearance of the Angel
C. The Doubt of Zacharias
IV. THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH TO
MARY - LUKE 1:26-38
A. The Appearance of the Angel
B. The Question of Mary
C. The Submission of Mary
V. THE VISIT OF MARY TO ELISABETH - LUKE 1:39-45
VI. THE SONG OF MARY - LUKE 1:46-56
VII. THE BIRTH OF JOHN - LUKE 1:57-80
VIII. THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH TO
JOSEPH - MATTHEW 1:18-25
IX. THE BIRTH OF THE KING - LUKE 2:1-7
X. THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH TO
THE SHEPHERDS - LUKE 2:8-20
XI. THE CIRCUMCISION OF THE MESSIAH - LUKE 2:21
XII. THE PRESENTATION - LUKE 2:22-38
A. The Obedience to the Mosaic Law
B. The Two Encounters
2. The Prophetess Anna
XIII THE VISIT OF THE MAGI - MATTHEW 2:1-12
A. Concerning Some Common Christmas Practices
B. The Questions Raised by the Passage
1. How Did They Know?
2. What Was the Source of Their Knowledge?
XIV THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT - MATTHEW 2:13-18
XV. THE RETURN TO NAZARETH - MATTHEW 2:19-23 AND
XVI. THE GROWTH OF THE KING - LUKE 2:40
XVII. THE VISIT TO JERUSALEM - LUKE 2:41-50
XVIII. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE KING - LUKE 2:51-52
beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God.
~ John 1:1 ~
study on the birth of the Messiah will be based on the
various birth-narratives found in the Gospels. We will study
them in chronological sequence and learn about the birth of
John the Baptist and the birth and early life of Yeshua
(Jesus) in the context of first century Jewish background
I. THE WORD - JOHN
The first passage is John’s introduction
to his biography of Jesus the Messiah. John’s theme is:
Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of God. The section begins with
verse 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God.
The Greek term, logos, that John used is translated by the
English term “word.” Because John used the term logos, many
commentaries on the Gospel of John, at this point enter into
a rather lengthy dissertation to try to explain what logos
meant in Greek philosophy.
In the end, they all say the same thing: that in Greek
philosophy, the logos had two concepts; the concept of
reason and the concept of speech. They then claim that what
John was trying to do was to show how Jesus fulfilled the
goals of Greek philosophy in both areas, reason and speech.
By “reason,” He was the very idea of God; and by “speech,”
He was the very expression of God. That is all well and good
to know except for one major problem: John, by profession,
was not a Greek philosopher, he was a Jewish fisherman. What
he really had in mind was not Greek philosophy, but Jewish
theology of first century Israel.
The rabbis of that day had a concept, which was referred to
as the memra. The memra is an Aramaic term that means
“word.” When John wrote his Gospel in Greek, he needed a
Greek term to translate the Jewish term memra, and the only
Greek term he had was logos. But John did not mean the
of Greek philosophy, rather, he meant the memra of Jewish
theology. The writings of the rabbis of that day taught that
there were six things, which were true about the memra.
A. The Same but Distinct From God
First, the memra was sometimes the same
as God, but sometimes it was distinct from God. The rabbis
never tried to explain away the obvious paradox: How was it
possible for the memra on one hand to be the same as God,
but on the other hand be distinct from God? They simply
taught both statements as being true and left it there.
This is the same thing that John said in verse 1. By stating
that the Word was with God, it means Jesus was distinct from
God. By saying the Word was God, it means Jesus was the same
as God. Like the rabbis, at this point John did not try to
explain away the obvious paradox: How is it possible for the
Word to be the same as God, yet be distinct from God? This
is explained only later in the Gospel in terms of the
Triunity. The logos is distinct from God in that He is not
God the Father, nor is He God the Holy Spirit. But He is the
same as God in that He is the Second Person of that
Triunity; He is God the Son and, therefore, the same as God.
Only in terms of the Triunity can the rabbinic paradox of
the memra in Jewish theology be explained.
B. The Agent of Creation
The second thing the rabbis taught about
the memra was that the memra was also the agent of creation.
Everything God created, He created by means of His memra, by
means of His Word; so without the memra nothing would exist
that now exists. In verse 3, John wrote:
All things were
made through him, and without him was not anything made that
has been made.
What is true of the memra in Jewish theology is true of the
logos of whom John wrote. Everything was made through him,
and without him was not anything made that has been made,
and so without Him nothing would exist that now exists: He
is the agent of creation.
C. The Agent of Salvation
The third thing the rabbis taught about
the memra was that the memra was the agent of salvation.
Whenever God saved throughout the history of the Old
Testament, whether it was a physical salvation such as the
Exodus out of Egypt or a spiritual salvation, God always
saved by means of His memra, by means of His Word. In John
1:12, John said: But as many as received him, to them gave
he the right to become children of God, even to them that
believe on his name: ...
As with the memra of Jewish theology, so with the logos of
is the agent of salvation. For it is those who personally
believe in His Messiahship and receive Him who become the
children of God and receive spiritual salvation from Him,
the agent of salvation.
D. The Visible Manifestation of God’s
The fourth thing the rabbis taught about
the memra was that the memra was the agent or the means by
which God became visible throughout the pages of the Old
Testament. In Christian theology, this phenomenon is called
a “theophany.” A theophany is the visible manifestation of
God that occurred throughout the history of the Old
The rabbis had a different term, Shechinah or the Shechinah
Glory; the Shechinah Glory is the visible manifestation of
God’s presence. Whenever the invisible God took on a visible
form, whenever the omnipresence of God became localized,
this visible, localized presence was the Shechinah Glory.
Throughout most of Old Testament history, the Shechinah
Glory took on the form of a light or fire or cloud or some
combination of these things. According to rabbis, this came
by means of the memra.
In verse 14, John wrote: And the Word became flesh, and
dwelt among us ... The Word, that in verse 1 was in the
beginning with God–always was with God, and always was
God–at a certain point in human history, took on visible
form. But this time He did not come in the form of a light,
fire, or cloud; rather, He came in the form of flesh. He
became human; He became man, and Yeshua, as a man, was the
visible manifestation of God’s presence.
John went on to say: He dwelt among us. The term that John
used which is translated by the English term “dwell” is not
the regular Greek term for “dwelling.” Rather, it is a Greek
term that was actually borrowed from the Hebrew, skeinei.
When the Greeks came in contact with the Jewish world, they
came across the term Shechinah and liked what it conveyed.
They wished to incorporate it into their language because,
in Greek mythology, there were stories of the gods coming
down from Mount Olympus, taking on some kind of visible form
and, for awhile, intermingling with men. The problem was
that the Greek language had no “sh” sound. Hebrew has a
letter called shin, by which the “sh” sound is made. English
requires the combination of two letters, “s” and “h,” to
produce the “sh” sound. But in Greek one cannot combine any
letters to get the “sh” sound. The Greeks could make a hard
“s”; they could say, “sssss,” but they could not say, “shhhh.”
They took the Hebrew word Shechinah, Hellenized it, and it
became the Greek word skeinei; this is the term John used
here. Literally, it does not mean, “to dwell,” but “to
tabernacle.” It has its origins in the account of Exodus 40,
where the Shechinah Glory, in the form of a visible cloud,
took up its residence within the Holy of Holies of the
Tabernacle. In Hebrew, mishkan is the same Hebrew root as
So for the next several centuries, the Shechinah Glory
“tabernacled” with the people of Israel until it left in the
days of Ezekiel 8-11. Now, the Shechinah Glory has
reappeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Once again,
for a period of time, He “tabernacled” among us. Like the
rabbis, John also connected the Shechinah with the glory of
God; for he goes on to say in verse 14: ...
(and we beheld
his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father),
full of grace and truth.
Yeshua was that new Shechinah Glory: He was the visible
manifestation of God’s presence.
The fact that Jesus was the Shechinah Glory light was
developed briefly in John 1:4-10, when he wrote:
| In him was
life; and the life was the light of men. And the light
shines in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not.
There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The
same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the
light, that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of
the light. There was the true light, even the light which
lights every man, coming into the world. He was in the
world, and the world was made through him, and the world
knew him not.
With these words, John emphasized that Yeshua
was that new Shechinah Glory light. He is the source of life
and He is the source of light for all men because He is the
creator of all men.
E. The Agent of Revelation
The fifth thing the rabbis taught about
the memra was that the memra was the agent of revelation.
Whenever God revealed Himself, He always did so by means of
His memra, or by means of His Word. John 1:18 states:
has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in
the bosom of the Father, he has declared him [or has
Throughout his Gospel, John’s main theme is:
Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.
But John also has several sub-themes that run throughout his
Gospel, and one of these is that Yeshua came for the purpose
of revealing the Father to men. That is why John, more than
Matthew, Mark or Luke, gives what Yeshua taught and said.
There are more of His teachings and sermons in John than in
Matthew, Mark and Luke combined. In these sermons and
discourses, He revealed the Father to men.
It is no accident, then, that it was John who recorded the
incident of one of Jesus’ disciples asking Him in John 14:8:
show us the Father. In verse 9, He answered,
If you have
seen Me you have seen the Father. Everything that
is true of the divine nature of the Father is also true of
the divine nature of the Son. Because of His very nature, He
revealed the Father. The same point is made in Hebrews
1:1-3, where the writer pointed out that whereas in previous
history God had revealed Himself in various portions and in
various ways, He has in these last days revealed Himself by
means of his Son. The Son is the
agent of revelation.
F. The Seal of the Covenants
The sixth and last thing the rabbis
taught about the memra was that the memra was the means by
which He signed and sealed His covenants. In the Old
Testament God made eight covenants, three with the world in
general and five with Israel in particular. His covenants,
whether they were made with the world in general or with
Israel in particular, were signed and sealed by means of His
memra, by means of His Word.
The sixth point does not come out as clearly as the first
five points do, but it is hinted at it in verse 17:
law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through
The Dispensation of Law was based upon the Mosaic Covenant,
which was signed and sealed by the Shechinah Glory in Exodus
24. The Dispensation of Grace is on the basis of the New
Covenant, which was signed and sealed by the shedding of the
blood of the Son of God. In that sense, He is the agent, the
means, by which a covenant is signed.
John’s point was not that Jesus came for the purpose of
fulfilling the goals of Greek philosophy, but that He came
for the purpose of fulfilling the Jewish Messianic hope. The
six things which were taught about the memra in rabbinic
writings are true of this One about whom John is writing:
Jesus of Nazareth: He is the memra, the logos, the Word.
Summary: John’s introduction of verses 1-18 can be
summarized in four points. First, the Word, the logos, the
memra, finally came in visible form, in the form of flesh,
in the form of a man. Secondly, unfortunately, the world in
general did not know Him; it did not recognize the light
that had arrived. Thirdly, even more tragically, His own
people, the Jewish people, did not recognize Him either.
However, fourthly, those individual Jews and Gentiles who
did recognize Him are the ones who became the children of
light; they are the ones who received spiritual salvation
from Him, the agent of salvation.
G. Other Important Points
There are a couple of other points in
John 1:1-18 that should not be missed. First, there are
certain cultic groups that try to deny the deity of the
Messiah and one of the arguments they use is based on verse
1: and the Word was God. In the Greek text there is no
definite article before God and so they claim that it simply
means “a god,” just like everybody else can become a god.
Their point is that Yeshua is not “the God,” but was simply
“a god,” in the same sense that all human beings can become
a god and, therefore, He does not share the deity of God the
However, in verse 18, there is a clear reference to God the
Father: No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten
Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
Obviously, the word God in verse 18 is a reference to God
the Father because the Son is mentioned in the next phrase,
and He is distinct from this God. In the Greek text, there
is no article before God, here either. Yet those who
translate verse 1 as “a god” do not translate verse 18 to
read, “no man has seen a god.” If they were consistent with
their man-made grammar, they would have done it this way,
but they do not because it goes contrary to their argument.
The lack of the definite article does not mean “a god”; it
simply emphasizes the nature of the thing described. The
nature of the Word is that He was divine; the nature of the
Father is that He is divine; and the nature of the Son is
that He is divine. It is foolish to translate verse 1 as “a
god.” The text should read as all translations have it:
Word was God. All that is true of the divine nature of the
Father is also true of the divine nature of the Son.
Secondly, verse 18 refers to Jesus as
the only begotten.
Cultic groups claim the only begotten means that He had a
beginning and, therefore, was not eternal. But the
expression the only begotten does not mean that. The
expression the only begotten always emphasizes the deity and
the uniqueness of the Messiah. What is begotten is His
humanity; in His deity, He always existed.
II. THE TWO GENEALOGIES
OF THE MESSIAH
MATTHEW 1:1-17 AND LUKE 3:23-38
Of the four Gospels, only two actually
deal with the birth and early life of Yeshua: Matthew and
Luke. For that reason, only these two have genealogies.
While both Matthew and Luke tell the story of His birth,
they tell it from two different viewpoints.
Matthew tells the story of the birth of Yeshua from Joseph’s
perspective. In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph plays the
active role while Mary plays a passive role; angels appear
to Joseph, but there is no record of angels appearing to
Mary; the text reveals what Joseph is thinking and what is
going on in his mind, but nothing of what Mary is thinking.
On the other hand, Luke tells the same story from Mary’s
perspective. In Luke’s Gospel, Mary plays the active role
while Joseph plays the passive role; angels appear to Mary,
but there is no record of angels coming to Joseph; the text
reveals what Mary is thinking and what is going on in her
mind, but nothing about what Joseph is thinking. From that
context alone, it should be very evident that the genealogy
in Matthew would be that of Joseph, since Matthew told the
from Joseph’s perspective; while the genealogy in Luke would
be that of Mary, since Luke is telling the story from her
A. Why Two Genealogies?
The question that all this raises is:
“Why the need for two genealogies to begin with, especially
since Jesus was not the “real” son of Joseph, anyway?” The
answer usually goes something like this, “Matthew’s
genealogy gives the royal line, while Luke’s genealogy gives
the real line.” What they mean by this is that, according to
Matthew’s account, Joseph was the heir-apparent to David’s
throne. Since Jesus was the “adopted” son of Joseph, He
could claim the right to sit upon the throne of David by
virtue of that adoption. On the other hand, Luke’s genealogy
shows that Jesus Himself is a descendant of David through
His mother, Mary. But the exact opposite is really true.
1. The Requirement for Kingship in the Kingdom of Judah
understand the real need for the two genealogies, one must
first understand that there were two Old Testament
requirements for kingship. One was applied to the southern
Kingdom of Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem, while the
other was applied to the northern Kingdom of Israel, with
its capital in Samaria.
The first requirement was that of Davidic descent. Unless
you were a member of the House of David, you could not sit
upon the throne in Jerusalem. When there was a conspiracy to
do away with the House of David and set up a brand new
dynasty as in Isaiah 7, Isaiah warned that any such
conspiracy was doomed to failure because no one outside the
House of David could sit upon the throne in Jerusalem.
2. The Requirement for Kingship in the Kingdom of Israel
second requirement was that of divine appointment or
prophetic sanction. Unless you had divine appointment or
prophetic sanction, you could not sit upon the throne of
Samaria. If anyone tried to do so, he would end up by being
assassinated. For example, God told Jehu that his line would
be allowed to sit upon the throne of Samaria for four
generations, and four did so. When the fifth one tried to
gain the throne, he was assassinated because he did not have
divine appointment or prophetic sanction. Both of these
elements will come into view in the need for the two
B. The Genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17
Looking at Matthew’s account of Joseph’s
line, Matthew broke with Jewish tradition and custom in two
ways: first, he skipped names; and, secondly, he mentioned
the names of women. The four women he mentioned were: Tamar
(v. 3); Rahab (v. 5); Ruth (v. 6); and, in verse 6, the
pronoun her refers to Bathsheba. Furthermore, the women he
named were not the most significant in the line of the
Messiah. For example, he left out a woman like Sarah, who
was far more significant.
Yet there is a reason for naming these four and not others.
First of all, these four women were Gentiles. Early in his
Gospel, Matthew hinted at a point, which he made more
clearly later: while the primary purpose of the coming of
Yeshua was for the lost sheep of the House of Israel, the
Gentiles will also benefit from His coming. The second thing
about these women is that three of them were involved in
specific sexual sins: one was guilty of adultery; one was
guilty of incest; and, one was guilty of prostitution.
Again, Matthew hinted at a point he made clearer later: that
Yeshua came for the purpose of saving sinners. However,
these are not the key points of this genealogy.
In tracing this genealogy, Matthew went back into time and
began with Abraham (v. 2) and traced it to David the king
(v. 6). From David’s many sons, he chose one, Solomon (v.
6), and traced the line to verse 11:
... and Josiah begat
Jechoniah and his brethren, at the time of the carrying away
Jechoniah was part of Joseph’s line, a point that will prove
crucial. Then in verse 12, Matthew picked up with Jechoniah
and traced it to Joseph (v. 16) who was the stepfather of
Jesus. According to Matthew, Joseph was a direct descendant
of David through Solomon, but also through Jechoniah. This
being true, it means that Joseph was not the heir-apparent
to David’s throne.
This is evident from Jeremiah 22:24-30:
|As I live, says
Jehovah, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah
were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck you
thence; and I will give you into the hand of them that seek
your life, and into the hand of them of whom you are afraid,
even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and
into the hand of the Chaldeans. And I will cast you out, and
your mother that bore you, into another country, where ye
were not born; and there shall ye die. But to the land
whereunto their soul longs to return, thither shall they not
return. Is this man Coniah a despised broken vessel? is he a
vessel wherein none delights? wherefore are they cast out,
he and his seed, and are cast into the land which they know
not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of Jehovah. Thus
says Jehovah, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall
not prosper in his days; for no more shall a man of his seed
prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling in
The name Coniah is a shortened form of Jechoniah. Because of
the kind of man that he was, God pronounced a curse upon him
in the days of Jeremiah. The curse has several facets to it,
but the last one is so significant that God called upon the
whole earth to hear it (v. 29). Then in verse 30, the curse
is spelled out: no descendant of Jechoniah will ever have
the right to sit upon the throne of David. Until Jeremiah,
the first requirement was membership in the House of David.
But with Jeremiah, that requirement was limited further; one
still had to be a member of the House of David, but apart
from Jechoniah. Joseph was a descendant of David, but also
through Jechoniah and so he was not the heir-apparent to
David’s throne. If Yeshua had been the real son of Joseph,
He too would be disqualified from ever sitting upon the
throne of David. Neither could He claim the right to sit
upon the throne of David by virtue of His adoption by
Joseph, because Joseph was not the heir-apparent to David’s
throne. That is why, unlike Luke, Matthew began his Gospel
with the genealogy, presented the “Jechoniah problem,” and
then solved it by means of the Virgin Birth.
Luke had no such problem, and so Luke began his Gospel with
the Virgin Birth and only as late as chapter 3 did he bother
to provide a genealogy. But, as far as the genealogy of
Matthew is concerned, if Yeshua had been the “real” son of
Joseph, He could not become king, nor could He claim to be
king because He was the son of Joseph by adoption.
C. The Genealogy in Luke 3:23-38
Turning to Luke’s genealogy, unlike
Matthew, Luke followed strict Jewish custom and procedure in
that he mentioned no women and he skipped no names. The rule
against naming women in a Jewish genealogy would raise a
question: “If you wished to trace a woman’s line but could
not use her name, how would you do so?” The answer under
Jewish law is, “You would use the name of her husband.”
But that raises another question. “Suppose someone like Luke
was doing research and came across a genealogy, how could he
tell by looking at the genealogy whether it was that of Mary
or that of Joseph since, in either case, Joseph’s name would
be found?” The answer is quite simple, but a problem lies in
a point of English grammar. It is considered bad English
grammar to use the definite article “the” before a proper
name. However, in both Greek and Hebrew it is quite
allowable. Every single name in Luke’s genealogy has the
definite article “the” in front of it except one: the name
of Joseph. Someone reading the original language can tell by
the missing “the” that this is not really Joseph’s line, but
the line of his wife, Mary.
The Jewish Talmud states: “A mother’s family is not to be
called a family.” In the Old Testament, there were two cases
where a woman’s line was traced by the name of her husband:
Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63. It is no accident that the
Jewish Talmud refers to Mary by her Jewish name, Miriam, and
calls her “the daughter of Heli,” just as Joseph is called
the son of Heli in verse 23. The rabbis, when they read this
genealogy, knew by the missing “the” that this was not the
genealogy of Joseph, but was that of his wife, Miriam or
Mary, and so referred to her as “the daughter of Heli.”
Unlike Matthew, Luke began with his own time and worked
backward into history. He started with the name Joseph as a
substitute of Mary and traced it to verse 31:
... the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of
Nathan, the son of David, ...
According to this verse, Mary, like Joseph, was a descendant
of David. However, unlike Joseph, Mary was a descendant of
one of David’s other sons, Nathan. As a result, Mary did not
have the blood of Jechoniah running through her veins. She
was a descendant of David, apart of Jechoniah. Since Jesus
was the real son of Mary, He too was a descendant of David,
apart from Jechoniah. This means that He fulfilled the first
Old Testament requirement for kingship: He was a member of
the House of David, apart from Jechoniah.
However, that does not solve the entire problem. At this
point of Jewish history, there were a great number of other
Jews who were descendants of David, apart from Jechoniah and
so Yeshua was not the only one to fulfill the first
requirement. Why should He be the king and none of the
others? The answer lies in the second Old Testament
requirement: that of divine appointment, which will appear
in another birth-narrative. But Yeshua alone fulfilled the
second Old Testament requirement, that of divine
appointment. Since by virtue of His Resurrection He now
lives forever, He will have no successors.
D. Titles of the Messiah
One more thing concerning these
genealogies is that they contain four of the many titles of
the Messiah. In Matthew 1:1, He is called the son of David
and the son of Abraham. In Luke 3:38, He is called the son
of Adam and the son of God. Each title emphasizes a
different aspect of His person.
Calling Him the son of David, means that Jesus is the King.
Calling Him the son of Abraham, means that Yeshua is a Jew.
These happen to be the particular themes of the Gospel of
Matthew. Matthew emphasizes the Jewishness and the kingship
of Jesus: He is the King of the Jews. That is why it is
Matthew alone who records the coming of the Wise-men asking
the question: Where is he that is born the King of the Jews?
His third title is the son of Adam. This title emphasizes
the fact that Yeshua was a man. This happens to be the
particular theme of the Gospel of Luke. Luke’s theme
throughout his Gospel is Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of Man.
That is why Luke–not Matthew, Mark, or John–records such
things in His human development as: how He grew up; how He
gained His knowledge; and His subjection to parental
authority. Luke, more than the others, emphasized how He was
hungry and how He was tired, all of which are trademarks of
humanity. Jesus the son of Adam, means that He is a man.
His fourth title is the son of God. This means that Jesus is
God. Being the son of God, from a Jewish frame of reference,
means that He is God. That happens to be the particular
theme of the Gospel of John. John’s theme throughout his
Gospel is: Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. That is why
John began his Gospel with the words,
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and
the Word was God.
At the end of his Gospel, John recorded the incident with
“doubting” Thomas who finally shed his doubts and said to
Jesus, My Lord and my God (Jn. 20:28). Between those two
passages, John emphasized over and over again the deity of
the Messiah–Yeshua is God.
These four titles portray the Messianic Person as the Jewish
God-Man, the King.
III. THE ANNUNCIATION
OF THE BIRTH OF
JOHN THE BAPTIST - LUKE 1:5-25
There are two key individuals in this
section. The first is Zacharias, which means, “God
remembers,” and his wife Elisabeth, which means “the oath of
God.” Their names together emphasize that “God remembers His
oath.” Later, there is a play upon the names of these two
people. Luke 1:5 states: There was in the days of Herod,
king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the
course of Abijah: and he had a wife of the daughters of
Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
A. The Service of Zacharias as Priest
In I Chronicles 24, King David divided
the Tribe of Levi into twenty- four courses. Each course
would take turns for a period of two weeks to take care of
the daily functions of the Temple rituals. There was one
high priest, below him were twenty-four chief priests and
under them were the members of the twenty-four courses, who
were the common priests. Zacharias was a common priest of
the course of Abijah. Each course would have its turn to
take care of the regular daily functions of the Temple for a
period of two weeks. The duties of the common priests would
be chosen by lot. It was quite possible for a priest to have
only one chance to function for a two-week period in his
Luke 1:6 states: And they were both righteous before God,
walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord
We are told that both Zacharias and Elisabeth, his wife,
were members of the believing Jewish Remnant of that day.
Zacharias’ particular function for two weeks, twice a day,
was to burn incense (v. 9). Every morning and evening, he
took a hot coal from the Altar of Sacrifice outside the
building in the courtyard and brought that hot coal into the
first room of the Temple building, the Holy Place. He then
set that hot coal down upon the Altar of Incense that stood
in front of the thick curtain that separated the Holy of
Holies from the Holy Place. After setting the coal down upon
the Altar of Incense, he then dropped some incense on it
causing a sweet-smelling smoke of incense to ascend and
penetrate through the thick veil into the Holy of Holies to
be a sweet-smelling savor, a sacrifice to the Lord within
the Holy of Holies.
Because of the incident that occurred in Leviticus 10 when
the two sons of Aaron burned the incense improperly and were
smitten dead, so the teaching of the rabbis in the days of
Zacharias was that if the priest burned the incense
improperly, then he would also die right there. There is a
Jewish legend, which claims that before the priest went into
the Holy of Holies, a rope was tied on his leg in case he
was stricken dead, his body could be dragged out by that
rope. But before death would come, an angel, the Angel of
Death, would appear standing on the right side of the Altar
B. The Appearance of the Angel
While Zacharias burned the incense, it is
stated that the whole multitude of the people were praying
without at the hour of incense (v. 10). Then verse 11 adds:
And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on
the right side of the altar of incense.
While Zacharias performed the ritual, suddenly he saw an
angel standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
Verse 12 states: And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him,
and fear fell upon him.
He was troubled because of what he had been taught, he
expected to die. However, the message of the angel was not
one of judgment and death, but one of blessing and new life
Although they had remained childless and had grown elderly,
the angel announced to Zacharias that his wife would
conceive and bear a son. He was to call the son’s name John
(v. 13). In Hebrew that name is Yochanan, which means
“grace.” Then the angel told Zacharias some things about the
son whom he would sire. According to Luke 1:15-17:
shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink
no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the
Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the
children of Israel shall he turn unto the Lord their God.
And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of
Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to
make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.
First, the angel pointed out John’s position:
he shall be
great in the sight of the Lord, ...
Secondly, John is to be a Nazarite from birth. Only two
people in Old Testament history were called to be Nazarites
from birth: Samson and Samuel. Samson proved unfaithful to
the Nazarite vow, but Samuel proved faithful. Now a third
person was appointed to be a Nazarite from birth: John the
Baptist. That is why he was forbidden to drink wine or
strong drink, because those who are Nazarites have to be
total abstainers from anything of the grape, including grape
juice, grapes or raisins.
The third thing the angel said about John was that he would
be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. To be
filled means to be controlled; John was to be controlled by
the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. This is a good
verse against abortion because God already views the fetus
as a person who can be controlled by the Holy Spirit, and
God already has a plan for that person.
Fourthly, John’s task will be this:
many of the children of
Israel shall he turn unto the Lord their God. He would begin
a repentance movement and many Jewish people would turn from
their sin to God by means of the preaching of John.
Fifth, John shall go before his face in the spirit and power
of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the
children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the
just. His task in particular was to be the Messiah’s
forerunner and to be the herald of the King; he was to
prepare the way for the Messiah.
The last thing about John is that his special task was to
prepare a group for the Messiah: to make ready for the Lord
a people prepared for him. John’s unique task was to have a
group ready that were repentant and ready to believe on the
Messiah, once the Messiah was identified.
C. The Doubt of Zacharias
After being told all this good news,
Zacharias said: Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old
man, and my wife well stricken in years (v. 18).
Zacharias spoke, he issued a question that arose out of
unbelief: Whereby shall I know this? Because he spoke a
sentence of unbelief, Gabriel responded that from then on
Zacharias would speak no more until the birth of his son and
the promise was fulfilled (vv. 19-20). For the next nine
months, Zacharias was smitten dumb; he was unable to speak
until the birth of his son.
This conversation with Gabriel had taken some time, and the
people outside were marveling that he was taking so long (v.
21). If the legend about the rope were true, perhaps they
began tugging on the rope to see if there was any life
there. Zacharias finally did come out, and they all realized
that he had had an experience in the Temple, but he was
unable to tell them about it because he was smitten dumb; he
had become mute (v. 22).
In keeping with the promise, Elisabeth did conceive (vv.
24-25). Since barren women were looked down upon in the
ancient world, she hid herself five months, glorying over
the fact that her reproach had been taken away.
IV. THE ANNUNCIATION OF
THE BIRTH OF
THE MESSIAH TO MARY - LUKE 1:26-38
A. The Appearance of the Angel
The best place to begin is Luke 1:26-38.
This section records how the
angel Gabriel was sent to Mary in order to inform her about
the coming birth of the Messiah. Verses 26-27 read:
the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a
city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a
man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the
virgin’s name was Mary.
Verse 26 states that in the sixth month, that is, six months
after Elisabeth became pregnant with John, the same angel
Gabriel, who had announced the birth of John the Baptist to
Zacharias, now announced the birth of Jesus to Mary. Mary
was, at this point, living in the town of Nazareth in
The passage clearly emphasizes that Mary was a virgin. She
was betrothed, or engaged, to a man named Joseph, who was of
the house of David. “Mary,” of course, is an Anglicized form
of her actual Hebrew name, Miriam. The Greek text reflects
that Hebrew name, Miriam. The name was translated from the
Hebrew to the Greek, to the Latin Maria, and finally to the
English Mary. The name she would have responded to was
In verse 28, the angel said to her:
Hail, you that are
highly favored, the Lord is with you.
She was greeted by the angel as one who had received special
grace from God in that she was going to become the mother of
the Messiah. She, according to verse 29: was greatly
troubled at the saying, and cast in her mind what manner of
salutation this might be.
Then the angel issued a specific message to her (vv. 30-33):
|And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for you have
found favor with God. And behold, you shall conceive in your
womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most
High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his
father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for
ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
of the angel Gabriel to Mary was that she would conceive and
bear a son in her virgin state. The Incarnation would be in
a man; God was going to become a man in the person of
Yeshua, the Son of Mary. Gabriel then points out several
things concerning the Son of Mary. As to His name, she was
to call Him JESUS. “Jesus” is also an Anglicized form of His
actual name. The name He would have responded to was Yeshua.
The Hebrew name Yeshua was translated into Greek as Ieisous,
then to Latin, and then to English as “Jesus.” His actual
name was Yeshua, a name that means, “to save” or “salvation”
or “Savior.” As Joseph would be told, the Child was to have
the name “Salvation” because He would
save his people from
Concerning this Son, the angel said:
He shall be great, and
shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God
shall give unto him the throne of his father David.
Here is the fulfillment of the second of the two Old
Testament requirements for kingship: divine appointment.
When Gabriel said to Mary: the Lord God shall give unto him the
throne, Jesus received divine appointment. He is the only
one who fulfilled both Old Testament requirements. Since He,
by virtue of His Resurrection, now lives forever, He will
have no successors.
B. The Question of Mary
At this point Mary raised a question: How
shall this be, seeing I know not a man? (v. 34). Zacharias’
question was different: Whereby shall I know this? or “How
can I be sure this is going to be so?” Zacharias’ question
was a question arising out of unbelief, arising out of
doubt. But Mary did not question the angel’s word. Her
question was not, “How will I know that this is true?” Her
question was merely a matter of “how.” It is a question that
concerns knowledge. “How will this happen in light of the
fact that she is a virgin?”
In verse 35, Gabriel answered that very question:
angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come
upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow
you: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall
be called the Son of God.
Because of what is said here, a common misconception has
arisen which must be dispelled. There is a common teaching
propagated in some circles that the reason for the necessity
of the Virgin Birth was that this was the only possible way
of keeping Jesus from inheriting the sin-nature. They go on
to teach that the sin-nature is transmitted through the male
only. Since Jesus did not have a human father, He was
sinless. He only had a human mother and the sin-nature is
not transmitted through the mother.
Actually, nowhere in the Bible does it ever say that the
sin-nature is transmitted through the male only. Sometimes,
in fact, the Bible emphasizes the female side of it more
than the male side. For example, in Psalm 51:5 David said:
And in sin did my mother conceive me.
In reality, the
sin-nature is transmitted through both the father and the
What kept Yeshua from inheriting the sin-nature was not the
absence of the male seed, but rather that, which is stated
in verse 35 as “the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.” We
should remember that God, being sovereign, was not suddenly
stuck with only one way of doing things. If God wanted to,
He could have produced a sinless being using both the male
seed and the female egg. The reason for the Virgin Birth is
that this was the way God chose to do it, not because this
was the only way He could do it. And by choosing to do it
this way, He would also fulfill prophecies that He had
stated in the Old Testament. This was hinted at in Genesis
3:15, and clearly stated in Isaiah 7:14: that the Messiah
would be conceived in the womb of a virgin; this would be a
unique credential of the Messiah. Again, the sin-nature is
transmitted through father and mother. What protected Him
from inheriting this sin-nature was the overshadowing
of the Holy Spirit.
This overshadowing by the Holy Spirit could have also
produced a sinless being using both the female egg and the
male seed, but God chose to use the female only. The reason
Mary was able to become pregnant apart from the male seed is
because of the overshadowing work of the Holy Spirit. By
means of the overshadowing work of the Holy Spirit, the
conception took place. Because of that overshadowing, He who
was conceived would be two things: first, He will be holy,
that is, sinless; and secondly, He will be the Son of God;
that is, He will be deity.
Gabriel also told Mary that her cousin, Elisabeth, was
pregnant and already six months along (vv. 36-37). This sets
the stage for the next section.
C. The Submission of Mary
Having the prophecy and the answer to her
subsequent question, the passage ends with Mary’s response
in verse 38: And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the
Lord; be it unto me according to your word. And the angel
departed from her.
At this point, she totally submits herself to the will and
care of God; this is wise in light of three things. First,
the Old Testament penalty for a betrothed woman who was
found pregnant was to be stoned to death; Mary would have to
trust God that the death penalty would not be applied to
her. Secondly, she had to trust God concerning the reaction
of the community, for she was in danger of expulsion from
the community and of being ostracized for the rest of her
life. Thirdly, she had to trust the Lord concerning her
relationship to Joseph. This was a valid concern because
Joseph, being a righteous man, did contemplate divorcing
Mary in light of her pregnancy. She gave herself over to the
Lord to work out all these important things.
Summary: We can summarize Gabriel’s message to Mary in five
points. First, the Incarnation would be in a man. Secondly,
His name was to be Yeshua or Jesus. Thirdly, as to His
essential nature, He would be great. Fourthly, He would be
the Son of God. And, fifth, He would fulfill the Davidic
The Davidic Covenant promised four eternal things: An
eternal throne, an eternal house or dynasty, an eternal
kingdom and an eternal descendant. All four eternal things
came out in Gabriel’s message. Concerning the throne, he
said: the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his
father David. Concerning the house or dynasty:
reign over the house of Jacob for ever. Concerning the
kingdom: of his kingdom there shall be no end. Concerning
the eternal descendant, Gabriel said:
The Holy Spirit shall
come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall
overshadow you: wherefore also the holy thing which is
begotten shall be called the Son of God. The four eternal
things, which were promised in the Davidic Covenant, were
restated here to be fulfilled through Jesus the
Messiah. The eternality of the house, throne, and kingdom is
guaranteed because the seed of David culminates in a Person
who is Himself eternal.
V. THE VISIT OF MARY TO
ELISABETH - LUKE 1:39-45
Gabriel had told Mary that her cousin,
Elisabeth, had been pregnant now for a space of six months.
Mary, living up in Galilee, chose to go from Galilee down to
Judah. She did it with haste, showing urgency in the matter
(v. 39). She came down to where Elisabeth and Zacharias were
Verse 41a states: And it came to pass, when Elisabeth heard
the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb: ...
At this point Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (v.
41b). To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to be
controlled by the Holy Spirit. Being controlled by the Holy
Spirit, she gave a prophetic utterance.
First, in verse 42 Elisabeth said: Blessed are you among
women, paraphrasing the words of Gabriel:
Hail, you that are
highly favored, the Lord is with you. Because she was
specially favored by God, she was blessed among women.
Secondly, blessed is the fruit of your womb, a special
blessing to the babe Mary was now carrying in her womb.
Elisabeth already knew who that baby was because, thirdly,
she said: And whence is this to me, that the mother of my
Lord should come unto me? In verse 43, Elisabeth referred to
Mary as the mother of her Lord. She knew that Mary was the
mother of Elisabeth’s Lord, the Messiah. In certain segments
of the visible church, Mary is sometimes referred to as “the
mother of God.” But she is not the mother of God because she
is not the mother of the divine nature of Jesus. That is
something He had for all eternity past. Mary is only the
mother of the humanity of Yeshua. The term Lord here is Lord
in the sense of the Messiah and she recognized Mary to be
the mother of the Messiah.
Fourthly, she pointed out that as soon as the voice of Mary
reached her ears, the babe John, in Elisabeth’s womb leaped
for joy (v. 44). Not just leaped, but leaped...for joy. Here
is another good verse against abortion. That which is in the
womb of the mother is treated in Scripture as being a
person. In the leaping, John again was doing the work of the
Fifth, there was a special blessing upon Mary because she
did believe the message of the angel, whereas Elisabeth’s
husband, Zacharias, did not believe, and resulted in his
being stricken mute.
Sixth, Elisabeth declared in this prophetic utterance that
there would be a fulfillment of those things which were
spoken to Mary from the Lord (v. 45). Elisabeth greatly
praised the extent of Mary’s faith.
VI. THE SONG OF MARY - LUKE 1:46-56
This song of Mary shows two things:
first, it shows the extent of Mary’s personal spirituality;
and, secondly, it shows her knowledge of Scripture because
her song is very similar to Hannah’s song in I Samuel
2:1-10. In Mary’s song, she made two main points: first, God
was her Saviour; and, secondly, the One coming, the Messiah,
was coming to fulfill the promises to Abraham.
Her song can be divided into two parts. The first part (vv.
46-50) describes what God did for Mary. Verses 46-47 state:
And Mary said, My soul does magnify the Lord, And my spirit
has rejoiced in God my Saviour.
She called God her Saviour.
The kind of people who need a saviour are sinners. This
statement clearly showed that Mary was a sinner. This
falsifies the claims of a certain segment of Christendom
that teaches that Mary was perpetually sinless. She said
that God was her Saviour, showing that she was saved by God
from her sins.
Then she used the word “for” three times, emphasizing that
she was praising God “because of ” what God had done for
her. First, in verse 48a: For he has looked upon the low
estate of his handmaid: ...
The handmaid was Mary herself. She was of low estate
because, on the economic scale, she was on the poverty
level. But in spite of her low estate financially,
economically, and socially, and living in Nazareth, a town
that had a poor reputation, God nevertheless had looked upon
her in grace.
Secondly, in verse 48b: ... For behold, from henceforth all
generations shall call me blessed.
In spite of her low beginnings, from then on all generations
would call her blessed because, through all generations,
there would be the recognition that she was the Messiah’s
Thirdly, in verse 49a: For he that is mighty has done to me
great things; ... The greatest thing was that she was going
to be the mother of the Messiah.
She concluded this section of what God did for her by
praising God: And holy is his name. And his mercy is unto
generations and generations on them that fear him.
The second part of her song, verses 51-55, where she
declared what God would do for Israel. She used the term he
has seven different times:
First: He has showed strength with his arm; ...
Secondly: ... He has scattered the proud in the imagination
of their heart. Thirdly: He has put down princes from their
Fourthly: ... And has exalted them of low degree.
Fifth: The hungry he has filled with good things; ...
Sixth: ... And the rich he has sent empty away.
And seventh: He has given help to Israel his servant, That
he might remember mercy (As he spoke unto our fathers)
Toward Abraham and his seed for ever.
often connect the coming of Yeshua with the various Jewish
covenants. In Matthew 1:1, Matthew introduced his Gospel by
calling Him the son of David and the son of Abraham. By so
doing, he connected the coming of Yeshua with the Davidic
Covenant and with the Abrahamic Covenant.
Here, in verses 54-55, Mary connected the coming of the
Messiah with the Abrahamic Covenant, for she said:
given help to Israel his servant, that he might remember
mercy (as he spoke unto our fathers) toward Abraham and his
seed for ever.
She will give birth to the One who will fulfill the
This birth-narrative ends in verse 56:
And Mary abode with
her about three months, and returned unto her house.
Mary stayed with Elisabeth a total of three months. These
three months were the seventh, eighth, and ninth months of
Elisabeth’s pregnancy. Mary left Elisabeth’s home just
before John was born. We are not told why she left before
John’s birth, perhaps it was to avoid attracting attention
to herself at this point. By this time, she was herself
three months pregnant and still in an unmarried state,
though betrothed to Joseph. When John was born, it created
great attention in the town, perhaps attention Mary did not
wish to attract to herself.
VII. THE BIRTH OF JOHN - LUKE 1:57-80
Elisabeth finally gave birth to her son
(v. 57) and when her neighbors and her kinsfolk heard they
rejoiced with her (v. 58). It created a great stir in town
because Elisabeth had been barren for so many years.
Verse 59 records the eighth day after John’s birth:
came to pass on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise
the child; and they would have called him Zacharias, after
the name of his father.
In Jewish tradition, practice, and custom to this day, a
male-child is not named upon birth. A son is named only on
the eighth day, the day of his circumcision. The Jewish
custom today is to name one’s child after a relative who has
already passed away, not after a living relative.
However, the custom in Jesus’ day was slightly different.
They did name a child after a relative, but the relative did
not have to be dead. All the people who came to the
circumcision of John assumed that the parents would name the
child Zacharias, after the name of his father. Since
Zacharias was unable to speak, Elisabeth took the initiative
and pointed out that he would not be named Zacharias, but
would be named John (v. 60).
This went contrary to Jewish custom because, as the
neighbors pointed out in verse 61: ... There is none of your
kindred that is called by this name.
In other words, there was no one, either in Zacharias’
family or in Elisabeth’s family, that had this name and,
therefore, it was contrary to Jewish tradition and practice
to give the child this name.
The neighbors then tried to go over Elisabeth’s head. They
assumed that Zacharias would certainly follow Jewish
tradition and would overrule his wife.
They made signs to
his father (v. 62).The fact that they had to make signs
implies that not only did Gabriel strike Zacharias mute, but
also deaf as well. Otherwise, there would have been no need
to make signs to him; they could have simply spoken to him
and Zacharias would have heard.
Since he could not speak at this point, he asked for a
writing tablet, and wrote, ...His name is John, confirming
what Elisabeth had told these neighbors (v. 63). They were
to name the child John; although it went contrary to Jewish
custom, it was obedient to the command of the angel.
The fact that Zacharias had now obeyed the angel, his tongue
was loosed and he was able to speak, and he blessed God (v.
64). Because of these peculiar events, the stories spread
all over the country (vv. 65- 66). There was general
recognition that something unique had been taking place that
John was somehow unique and he was going to have a special
role in God’s plan and program, although they did not know
what it was.
Verse 67 states that Zacharias was filled with the Holy
Spirit, and prophesied. Zacharias was now controlled by the
Holy Spirit and, as a result, he issued a prophetic
utterance, found in verses 68-79. His prophetic utterance
can be divided into two sections: first (vv. 68-75), where
he spoke of the Messiah; and secondly (vv. 76-80), he then
dealt with his son, John. In this prophetic utterance,
Zacharias also connected the coming of the Messiah with the
First, in verse 69, the Davidic Covenant:
... And has raised
up a horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant
Secondly, in verse 73, with the Abrahamic Covenant: ... The
oath which he spoke unto Abraham our father, ...
Thirdly, with the New Covenant, in verse 77:
... To give
knowledge of salvation unto his people In the remission of
their sins, ...
The remission of their sins was to be a product of the New
Earlier it was pointed out that the name, Zacharias, means
“God remembers,” and the name, Elisabeth, means “the oath of
God.” Here is a play upon the meaning of both names. The
last line of verse 72 states: And to remember his holy
And the first line of verse 73 states:
The oath which he
swore unto Abraham our father. The two names together teach
that “God remembers His oath.”
In verse 76, Zacharias spelled out exactly what John’s task
was going to be: Yea and you, child, shall be called the
prophet of the Most High: For you shall go before the face
of the Lord to make ready his ways; ...
There are two things about John. First, he will be a prophet
of God–John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. A
prophet was one who received direct revelation from God and
John received it. Secondly, he was to go before the face of
the Lord. In fulfillment of Malachi 3:1, he was Messiah’s
forerunner and the herald of the King.
Then, verse 78 states: ... Because of the tender mercy of
our God, Whereby the dayspring from on high shall visit us,
The term dayspring means “the rising sun.” It is a reference
to the sun of righteousness of Malachi 4:2. The picture is
that just as the morning star signals the coming of day,
even so John will be like the morning star that will precede
the coming of the sun of righteousness.
When the sun of righteousness arrived, He was to benefit two
different groups of peoples, as is evident by the change of
pronouns (v. 79): To shine upon them that sit in darkness
and the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of
Of the two groups, the first group is “them” and the second
group is “our”. The them are the Gentiles who sit in the
darkness and the shadow of death. The Messiah will benefit
the Gentiles because it was prophesied that He will be the
light of the Gentiles. Second, the Messiah will
feet into the way of peace. The our refers to the Jewish
people; He will bring peace to Israel.
The passage ends in verse 80, summarizing John’s development
in three areas. First: the child grew; He grew up, he grew
physically. Secondly: he waxed strong in spirit; there was
spiritual development as well. Thirdly: and was in the
deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel. Early in
his life, John took off into the deserts and went into the
wilderness of Judah, where he spent a great part of his
life. He was there until his public showing unto Israel.
Growing up in the desert meant two things. First, he was
separated from the Judaism of his day. Secondly, when his
message finally came, it was different than the Judaism of
VIII. THE ANNUNCIATION
OF THE BIRTH OF THE
MESSIAH TO JOSEPH - MATTHEW 1:18-25
The emphasis of this section is clearly
on the Virgin Birth, and three
different times the Virgin Birth is emphasized. First, in
verse 18: Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise:
When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before
they came together she was found with child of the Holy
This verse makes it very clear that she was pregnant before
there were any sexual relations between Joseph and Mary.
The second time this is emphasized is in verses 22-23:
all this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which
was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Behold,
the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son,
And they shall call his name Immanuel; which is, being
interpreted, God with us.
The fact that Isaiah 7:14 is
quoted by Matthew 1:22-23 clearly shows that first century
Judaism understood Isaiah’s prophecy to speak of a Virgin
Birth. For Matthew of course, this is the way out of the
problem of the Jechoniah curse (Jer. 22).
The Virgin Birth is emphasized for the third time in verse
25: ... and knew her not till she had brought forth a son:
and he called his name JESUS.
Even after the wedding
ceremony, they had no sexual relations whatsoever until
after the birth of Yeshua. The very word
till points out
that after Yeshua was born, they did have sexual relations.
This statement falsifies the claim of one segment of
Christendom that teaches the perpetual virginity of Mary.
This is not biblically true. In fact, Mary produced at least
six more children, four sons and at least two daughters
Earlier in this study about the annunciation of the birth of
Jesus to Mary, it was pointed out that Mary, in the end,
submitted herself totally to the will and care of God
because she had to be concerned for three things: first,
that she would not be stoned to death which was the penalty
under the Law; secondly, she had to trust that God would
work out the reaction with the community; and thirdly, she
had to trust that God would work out her relationship with
Joseph, because Joseph would naturally assume the obvious;
that Mary had been unfaithful.
Indeed, verse 19 states: And Joseph her husband, being a
righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example,
was minded to put her away privily.
Joseph had already begun
to write out a bill of divorcement privately; he had begun
divorce procedures, concluding that in light of Mary’s
pregnancy, she had been unfaithful. It is at this point that
an angel appears to Joseph with a message containing three
essential points (vv. 20-23). First, he was to fulfill the
marriage vow; he was to proceed with the wedding ceremony,
even though Mary was pregnant. Secondly, he was to believe
Mary’s story that what had been conceived was of the Holy
Spirit, and not through any immoral relationship. Thirdly,
it was pointed out to Joseph that what was happening was all
according to plan in keeping with the divine prophecy of
The angel instructed Joseph in verse 21: And she shall bring
forth a son; and you shall call his name JESUS; for it is he
that shall save his people from their sins.
As Mary was told, so Joseph was told that His name was to be
JESUS, though no one in Mary’s line nor in Joseph’s line had
this name. In that way, the naming of Jesus was like the
naming of John; a name was given which was not a name that
anyone else had, on either side of the family. The name
Jesus was actually the name Yeshua, which comes from the
Hebrew root meaning, “to save.” The reason the angel told
Joseph to name the child JESUS or Yeshua, is because
he that shall save his people from their sins.
In keeping with the angel’s command, Joseph proceeded and
fulfilled that command; the marriage ceremony took place.
However, there were no sexual relations between the two
until after the birth of Yeshua.
IX. THE BIRTH OF THE
KING - LUKE 2:1-7
A decree issued by Quirinius commanded
all to be enrolled for tax purposes in their own city. Since
both Mary and Joseph had their origins in Bethlehem rather
than Nazareth, they were forced to go down to Bethlehem,
although Mary was in the advanced state of pregnancy. But
this was in keeping with Bible prophecy, for it was only in
Bethlehem that the Messiah was to be born.
Luke 2:1-7 deals specifically with the birth of Yeshua:
it came to pass in those days, there went out a decree from
Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled. This
was the first enrolment made when Quirinius was governor of
Syria. And all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own
city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city
of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is
called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of
David; to enrol himself with Mary, who was betrothed to him,
being great with child. And it came to pass, while they were
there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him
in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because
there was no room for them in the inn.
Based upon this narrative as well as what is known from
contemporary literature, the year of Jesus’ birth can be
pinpointed fairly accurately. The first clue we have is that
Jesus was born before the year 4 B.C. Herod the Great died
that year, and the Gospels are quite clear that Jesus was
born at a time when Herod was still living. Since Herod died
in 4 B.C., the birth of Jesus must have been prior to the
death of Herod the Great. The second clue, the decree of
Quirinius mentioned in verse 2, was issued in the year 8
B.C. so Jesus was born after that. Therefore, Jesus was born
sometime between the years 8 B.C. and 4 B.C.
But other sources can pinpoint the year even more precisely.
a first century Jewish historian, recorded that Herod left
Jerusalem in the year 5 B.C., never to return. He spent his
final months of life in the city of Jericho and died there.
We know from Matthew 2 that the Wise-men met with Herod
while he was still in Jerusalem, so that would put the
Wise-men connection sometime between the years 8 B.C. and 5
B.C., before Herod left Jerusalem for Jericho. Furthermore,
Josephus also stated that throughout the year 8 B.C. Herod
was away from Jerusalem fighting a war. Since he was away
from Jerusalem in the year 8 B.C., the Wise-men could not
have met with him in that year. Putting all of these clues
together, the conclusion is that Yeshua was born sometime
between the years 7 B.C. and 6 B.C. It was probably closer
to the year 7 B.C., because Yeshua was approximately two
years old at the time the Wise-men arrived and this was
prior to 5 B.C. when Herod left the city.
When Yeshua was born, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes.
This will prove to be something significant. The meaning of
this will be discussed in the next narrative.
X. THE ANNUNCIATION OF
THE BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH
TO THE SHEPHERDS - LUKE 2:8-20
In Luke 2:8-20, there is the announcement
by the angels to the shepherds concerning the birth of
Jesus. Verse 8 states: And there were shepherds in the same
country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night
over their flock.
It has already been pointed out that Yeshua was born
sometime between the years 7 B.C. and 6 B.C. But there are
not enough clues given to reveal which month during that
year Yeshua was born. This verse is often used to try to
argue against a December 25th date for His birth. Around
Christmastime, in various churches and on various radio
programs, Bible teachers claim that Yeshua could not have
been born on December 25th because there would not be
shepherds out in the field watching the flock by night in
the month of December.
Those who say this obviously have never been to Bethlehem in
the month of December. I lived in Israel for a number of
years, and, on more than one December day when I was in the
Bethlehem environs, there were shepherds and sheep all over
the place. One cannot assume that what is true of shepherds
and sheep in the state of Montana in the month of December
is the proper criterion to interpret what is true of
Bethlehem in the month of December. This is not to argue in
favor of a December 25th date. Insofar as the biblical
record is concerned, there is no way to determine accurately
just when during the year Yeshua was born. But verse 8
cannot be used against a December 25th date. Maybe Yeshua
was born on December 25th. Or perhaps He was born on July
4th. It is impossible to know.
But at that point, something unique happened. Verse 9
states: And an
angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord
shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
Suddenly the Shechinah Glory reappeared in one of its more
familiar, Old Testament manifestations; that of light. For
the first time since the Shechinah Glory departed from
Israel in the days of Ezekiel 8-11, for the first time in
more than five centuries, the Shechinah Glory reappeared.
God used the Shechinah Glory to announce the birth of the
Messiah to Jewish shepherds.
Along with the Shechinah Glory, an angel appeared. The
angel’s message to the shepherds was threefold: first, do
not be afraid. Secondly, a Saviour is born. And thirdly, He
is not just any kind of Saviour, He is the Messiah Himself.
The shepherds were then instructed to go and find this
child. But there were many babies in Bethlehem, so how would
they know which baby it was?
The angel gave them two clues: And this is the sign unto you
(v. 12). The word sign by itself does not require the
miraculous, but it does require the unusual. This sign
contains two elements: first, the babe wrapped in swaddling
clothes; and secondly, He is lying in a manger.
The first clue was that the baby was wrapped in swaddling
clothes. Swaddling clothes are not baby clothes because that
would not be a sign; that would not be unusual, because all
babies are wrapped in baby clothes. The word used here means
“burial cloth.” The babe was wrapped in burial cloth,
pointing out that He came for the purpose of dying–dying for
Intermixed among the stable-caves were also other caves used
to bury people. Burial cloth was sometimes stored in nearby
stable-caves. If a man died in the town of Bethlehem, his
body was taken out of the town in a funeral procession. The
first stop was at a stable-cave where burial cloth was
stored, and the body was wrapped in burial cloth. Then the
procession would proceed to a burial cave. The round stone
was rolled away, the body placed in a niche in the burial
cave, and then the stone was rolled back over the mouth of
Since Jesus was born in a cave, which was used for a stable,
rather than the inn, Mary and Joseph had to make use of that
which was most readily available, burial cloth. The
symbolism should not be missed: Jesus was wrapped in burial
cloth on the first day of His life and He was wrapped with
the same type of cloth on the last day of His life. The
symbolic meaning is that He came for the purpose of dying.
All others are born to live, but Jesus was born to die.
The second clue, the fact that the baby was lying in a
manger, told these shepherds not to look in the private
homes of Bethlehem, but to look inside stables. In those
days, stables were not separate buildings or barns, but
caves which were used as stables. During the winter
months, if it were not raining, the flocks could be in the
field; but if it were raining, the shepherds brought the
flocks into the caves, which were used, for stables. Jesus
was born in a stable-cave. The shepherds were to look for
the baby inside a cave that was used as a stable.
After these instructions, other angels appeared, praising
God, and they said, not sang, two things. First, in verse
14, for God: Glory to God in the highest. And secondly, for
humanity: And on earth peace among men in whom he is well
Because of the two clues given, the shepherds found the
child with Mary and Joseph. When they found them, they told
Joseph and Mary everything concerning the vision they had
seen, so Mary knew these things and
kept all these sayings,
pondering them in her heart (v. 19). This is found in Luke,
who tells the story from Mary’s perspective. Mary, after
hearing these things, kept these things quiet and secret,
pondering them in her heart. Years later, apparently, she
revealed these things to Luke, who wrote this account. This
incident records the first Jewish worship of the Messianic
Then in verse 20: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and
praising God for all the things that they had heard and
seen, even as it was spoken unto them. They praised God for
providing the Messiah.
XI. THE CIRCUMCISION OF
THE MESSIAH - LUKE 2:21
Luke 2:21 records the circumcision of
Yeshua: And when eight days were fulfilled for circumcising
him, his name was called JESUS, which was so called by the
angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Again, in Jewish tradition, the male child is not named at
birth, but named on the eighth day when he is circumcised.
On the eighth day, when Jesus was circumcised, He was
officially named Jesus or Yeshua, in keeping with the
Circumcision was prescribed or commanded under two of the
Old Testament covenants: the Abrahamic Covenant and the
Mosaic Covenant, but it had two different meanings. Under
the Abrahamic Covenant, circumcision was obligatory for Jews
only because it was a sign of Jewishness. Under the Mosaic
Covenant, circumcision was obligatory for both Jews and
Gentiles such as proselytes and servants, as the sign of
submission to the Law of Moses. Jesus was circumcised under
both covenants. Today, because the Mosaic Law has come to an
end, there is no basis of circumcising either Jews or
Gentiles on the basis of the Mosaic Law. However, the
Abrahamic Covenant is eternal, so circumcision is still
mandatory for Jews. Even today, all Jews including Jewish
believers are to circumcise their sons on the eighth day as
a sign of their Jewishness, according to the Abrahamic
Covenant. The fact that Joseph and Mary fulfilled this
command showed their obedience to the Law of Moses and that
members of the believing, faithful Remnant.
Circumcision does not show the faith and obedience of the
child, rather, it shows the faith and obedience of the
parents. If a child at the mere age of eight days had the
option, he would probably prefer to forego this experience.
The child is not exercising his own will or his own faith
when he is circumcised. For that reason, baptism is not the
anti-type to circumcision. Baptism shows the faith and
obedience of the one being baptized, and not of the parents.
The anti-type of the circumcision of the flesh is not
baptism, but the circumcision of the heart.
XII. THE PRESENTATION -
A. The Obedience to the Mosaic Law
The next event recorded was the
presentation of the Child to the Lord that occurred when
Yeshua was forty-days old. Once again, the parents of
Yeshua, Mary and His stepfather, Joseph, proved faithful and
obedient to the Mosaic Law.
Verse 22 states: And when the days of their purification
according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought
him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord ...
According to the Mosaic Law in Leviticus 12, if a mother
gave birth to a girl, she was reckoned ceremonially unclean
for a period of eighty days. If she gave birth to a boy, she
was reckoned ceremonially unclean for forty days. The mother
needed to undergo a purification ritual. Because Mary had
given birth to a boy, this event occurred when Jesus was
forty-days old. According to Jewish records, the
purification took place at the east gate of the court, at a
gate known as Nicanor’s Gate. The purpose of the
presentation was twofold: first, for the special ceremonial
purification of the mother so that she would no longer be
ceremonially unclean; and, secondly, for the redemption of
the firstborn son. Since Jesus was her firstborn son, the
redemption price had to be paid on this occasion.
For the offering, they offered: A pair of turtledoves, or
two young pigeons (v. 24). This reveals the economic status
of these two members of the House of David: they were among
the poor; they were on the poverty level. The Law only
allowed the offering of two birds if one could not afford
anything better. Both Mary and Joseph were on the poverty
level of the economic strata.
But this was in keeping with two Old Testament prophesies.
First, Isaiah 11:1 predicted that the Messiah would appear
only once the mighty House of David had been reduced to what
it was in Jesse’s days–a poor family in Bethlehem. Isaiah
pictured a mighty tree that had been felled, with only the
stump remaining. Only then, does a branch out of its roots
grow and produce fruit. The Messiah is referred to not as
“the root of David,” but as “the root of Jesse.” Only
once the mighty tree of the House of David had been felled
and reduced to a stump, to what it was in Jesse’s day, will
the Messianic Branch appear. And so it was.
The second prophecy, Amos 9:11 predicted that the Messiah
would appear only when the mighty House of David had been
reduced to a broken-down hut. By this time, that was exactly
what had occurred. In place of offering animals, Joseph and
Mary offered two birds: one for a sin-offering, and the
other for a burnt-offering.
B. The Two Encounters
On this occasion, they had two
The first encounter was with a man named Simeon (vv. 25-35).
Verse 25b reads: ... this man was righteous and devout,
looking for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit
was upon him.
First, this man was a righteous man. The term righteous
means “just.” Simon the Just, in Jewish writings, was the
son of Hillel and the ruler of the Sanhedrin of that time.
He was also the father of Gamaliel. It is not certain if
this was the same Simon the Just, but it might very well
have been, because Luke only gave his name as being Simon,
or Simeon, a rather common name of that period, without ever
identifying whose son he was. The fact that he was referred
to as righteous, or “just” means he might very well have
been the same as Simon the Just of the rabbinic writings.
Secondly, he was a devout man, so he was a member of the
believing Jewish Remnant of that day.
Thirdly, he was looking for the consolation of Israel with
expectation of the coming of the Messiah.
Fourthly, the Holy Spirit was upon him; he was a recipient
of the Old Testament-type ministry of the Holy Spirit.
According to verse 26, the Holy Spirit had revealed to him
that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ,
or the Lord’s Messiah.
Simeon, who by this time was an
elderly man, was promised that he would not die until his
eyes saw the Messianic Person. On this occasion, when Simeon
came into the Temple, he came in the Spirit (v. 27). In
other words, he was led by the Spirit into the Temple. When
his eyes saw Yeshua, he recognized in this forty-day-old boy
the fulfillment of that promise. His eyes had seen the
At that point, Simeon said, in verses 29-32:
|Now let you
your servant depart, Lord, According to your word, in peace;
For my eyes have seen your salvation, Which you have
prepared before the face of all peoples; A light for
revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of your people
In this prophetic utterance, he said several things. First,
he was then ready to die because the promise which had been
made to him was fulfilled; he had then seen the Messianic
Person (v. 29). He declared: For my eyes have seen your
salvation (v. 30). Simeon was not speaking English but in
Hebrew. The Hebrew word for salvation is Yeshuah. The Hebrew
word for Jesus is almost the same, Yeshua. Both come from
the same Hebrew root yasha, which means, “to save.” The only
difference is the letter “h,” which itself is silent, so in
Hebrew, the word “salvation” and the word “Jesus” sound the
same. In a real way, what he said was not only
my eyes have
seen your salvation, but “my eyes have seen Your Yeshua.” He
had, indeed, recognized this forty-day- old boy to be the
Secondly, he pointed out that two groups would benefit from
Messiah’s coming (v. 32). He saw the same thing that
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, had seen: that
the coming of the Messiah would benefit two groups of
people. The first group is the Gentiles: He will be a light
for revelation to the Gentiles. Zacharias declared that it
was the Gentiles who sat in darkness and the shadow of
death. Upon them, the light must shine. It was already
prophesied (Is. 42:6; 49:6) that the Messiah would be the
light to the Gentiles. The second group to benefit from His
coming is the Jewish people: the glory of your people
Having said these things about Jesus, Simeon now had some
words for the mother in verses 34-35:
...and Simeon blessed
them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is
set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel; and
for a sign which is spoken against; yea and a sword shall
pierce through thine own soul; that thoughts out of many
hearts may be revealed.
First in verse 34, the coming of this child would mean a
division within the Jewish world. For some He would mean the
falling and for some the rising. Those who fail to believe
on Him will fall. For the Jewish unbeliever, He will be the
stone of stumbling and the rock of offense. For the Jewish
believer, He was going to be the rising, because those who
believed were going to receive the salvation that He
Secondly, He would be an individual who, throughout the
Jewish world and throughout Jewish history, will be spoken
Thirdly, because of His coming, a sword shall pierce the
soul of Mary. And so it was. She was present when the Jewish
leaders rejected Him and called Him demon-possessed. She
observed the people turning against Him. The sword pierced
its deepest when she saw her Son hanging upon the cross.
Finally, Simeon pointed out that all this was necessary so
that the thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. This
man named Simeon recognized in Jesus the Messianic Person.
2. The Prophetess Anna
The second encounter, in verses 36-38, was with a woman who
prophetess by the name of Anna, the Hellenized form for the
Hebraic Hannah. She was of the tribe of Asher, one of the
so-called “ten lost tribes,” but Anna was not lost. There is
no such thing as the ten lost tribes of Israel. This is a
myth, the tribes were never lost. The Bible reveals exactly
where the ten tribes settled. When the Jews returned from
the Babylonian captivity, members from all Twelve Tribes
came back, not just from the Tribe of Judah and Benjamin.
Here is just one example: Anna, of the Tribe of Asher.
Today, the myth of the ten lost tribes is spread mostly by
various cultic groups who like to claim that they are the
ten lost tribes. They are partially right; these cultic
groups are lost! However, they are not one of the tribes of
Anna was very old, she was of a great age; she had been a
widow for eighty-four years, and by this time, she was over
one hundred years old. She, too, recognized in this
forty-day-old boy the Messianic Person. As a result, verse
38 states: And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks
unto God, and spoke of him to all them that were looking for
the redemption of Jerusalem.
She went to announce to other members of the believing
Remnant of that day that the Messiah had been born and that
she had seen Him. Both Simeon and Anna passed away before
Yeshua began His public ministry.
XIII. THE VISIT OF THE
MAGI - MATTHEW 2:1-12
A. Concerning Some Common Christmas
Around Christmastime on church lawns, in
front of church pulpits or podiums, and in front of private
homes, nativity sets are displayed. All nativity sets tend
to look somewhat the same. There is a building that
represents a barn, though no Jewish person living in first
century Israel would have recognized it as such. In front of
this barn, or perhaps inside of it, are three people: Jesus,
Mary, and Joseph. Jesus is either in a manger or on Mary’s
lap. On one side, facing the three people, are some
shepherds of various numbers. On the other side are three
kings facing them. But the biblical birth-narrative destroys
nativity sets. The shepherds and the so-called three kings
never met each other. These events were separated by
approximately two years in time and the two situations were
There is a popular Christmas song sung during the Christmas
season, the first line of which says, “We three kings of
Orient are.” There are two theological blunders in the first
line of that song. First, is the number “three.” How many
were there? The Bible never states that there were three. In
fact, it is only certain that there were at least two
because the word is in the plural number. There were at
least two, but maybe there were twenty, or two hundred, or
two thousand. There were enough to cause the whole city of
Jerusalem to be stirred up tremendously. This implies that
perhaps there were considerably more
than just three of them. The second blunder is to call them
“kings.” The Bible never refers to them as kings, but refers
to them as magi or Wise-men, a term that means
“astrologers.” They came from the East, which, in Scripture,
is the area of Mesopotamia. In this passage, there are an
unknown number of Gentile astrologers from Babylonia who
arrived in Jerusalem asking: Where is he that is born King
of the Jews?
B. The Questions Raised by the Passage
This passage raises a number of
questions; such as, “How would Gentile astrologers from
Babylonia know anything about the birth of a Jewish king?”
And even if they knew about it, “Why would they want to come
and worship him?” In previous history, such as in the days
of Daniel, there were Babylonian astrologers and Jewish
kings and yet no Babylonian astrologer had any desire to go
to Jerusalem and worship a Jewish king. So, “Why did they
want to worship one now?” Furthermore, “Does this passage
authenticate a practice or form of Christian astrology, as
some people have claimed, although the Bible forbids any
kind of contact with any form of astrology whatsoever?”
These questions will be answered one by one.
1. How Did They Know?
First, “How did they know?” How the magi knew is somehow
connected with the star they saw in the east. The basic rule
of interpreting Scripture is to always take the Bible
literally, unless there is something in the context that
will not allow it to be taken that way. There are five
things about this star in this context that shows that this
is not a literal star, but something other than a literal
First, this star is referred to by the pronoun his, that is,
the Messiah’s star (v. 2) It was the Messiah’s personal star
in a way that was not true of any other star. Of course, all
the stars are God’s because He created them, but there was
something unique about this star that it became the
Messiah’s personal star. Secondly, this star appeared and
disappeared on at least two or more occasions. Thirdly, this
star moved from east to west. Fourthly, this star moved from
north to south. Fifth, the clincher is that this star
literally came down to Bethlehem and hovered over one
particular house in the town of Bethlehem (v. 9). Any
literal star that will come down to hover over one house in
Bethlehem would end up destroying this entire planet. That
is the nature of stars. They are like the sun. If the sun
came down to hover over one house in Bethlehem, it would
obviously burn up this planet before it ever had a chance to
do that. Being so huge, stars, like the sun, are not able to
simply confine their hovering to one small house in
Bethlehem. This is not a literal star. What is it then?
There have been all kinds of attempts to explain this
astronomically, but all astronomical explanations fail
because comets or conglomerations of planets or
constellations simply cannot do what this star did. The root
for the Greek word for star means “radiant” or
“brilliant.” This “brilliance” is the Shechinah Glory. Just
as the Shechinah Glory was used to announce the birth of the
Messiah to Jewish shepherds, it was also used to announce
the birth of the King of the Jews to Gentile astrologers.
When the Gentile astrologers saw the unusual brilliance in
the sky, it somehow signaled to them that the Messiah, the
King of the Jews, was born.
2. What Was the Source of Their Knowledge?
The next question is: “How would these Gentile astrologers
from Babylon know anything about a Messianic concept to
begin with?” Jews would know about it, but how would they
know about it?
Of all the Old Testament prophecies of the First Coming of
the Messiah, only one passage, Daniel 9:24-27, pinpointed
how many years would transpire before the Messiah would
come. This passage contains the Messianic timetable which
spelled out how many years would transpire before the
Messiah was born. Unlike many of the other books of
Scripture, the Book of Daniel was not written in the Land of
Israel, but was written in Babylon. In fact, half of the
book is not written in Hebrew, the Jewish tongue, but in
Aramaic, the language of the Babylonians.
According to the Book of Daniel, in chapter 2:1-49, he
became the head of the Babylonian School of Astrology.
Nebuchadnezzar, the king, was not a man with spiritual
insight. When he saw that Daniel had some very unique
abilities, his assumption was that Daniel must be a superior
astrologer. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Daniel as
president of the Babylonian School of Astrology (v. 48). But
Daniel never received his information and revelation from
the stars or from astrology. He always received it from the
Creator of those stars, the God of Israel. This passage in
no way supports any kind of teaching on Christian astrology.
A day came when Daniel was able to save the lives of all the
other Babylonian astrologers. When the astrologers were
unable to interpret a dream of Nebuchadnezzar, he sentenced
every one of them to death. Included among the ones arrested
to be executed were Daniel and his three friends. From the
Babylonian frame of reference, they considered Daniel to be
one of the incompetent astrologers. But Daniel requested and
received an audience with the king. He interpreted the dream
and, by so doing, saved the lives of all the other
astrologers. No doubt, as a result of that experience, many
of these astrologers turned away from the worship of the
stars and astrology, and became believers in the God of
Israel, Daniel’s God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Generations later, they still had in their possession a book
written by one of their former presidents, the Book of
Daniel, which pinpointed how many years would transpire
before the Messiah would appear. At
least they knew when to look. When they saw an unusual
brilliance in the sky, they took that to be the signal that
the Messiah was born. Again, the source was divine
revelation, the written record, the Book of Daniel, and not
astrology. In no way can this passage be used to support any
Christian practice of astrology.
While Daniel clearly pinpointed how many years would
transpire before the Messiah would appear, Daniel nowhere
implied or connected the coming of the Messiah with a star
or with some brilliance in the sky. For that, there is
another Babylonian connection in the story of Baalam (Num.
22-24). Baalam’s reputation was well-established in the
ancient world: “whosoever Baalam blesses is blessed, but
whosoever Baalam curses is cursed.” Because of that
reputation, the king of Moab hired Baalam to curse the Jews.
Four different times the king of Moab took Baalam upon a
high mountain where he could look down upon the Jewish
encampment. Four different times Baalam tried to open his
mouth to curse the Jews. And four different times God took
over his tongue, and he blessed the Jews instead. In these
blessings, he issued several Messianic prophecies, one of
which is found in Numbers 24:17:
| I see him, but not now; I
behold him, but not nigh: There shall come forth a star out
of Jacob, And a sceptre shall rise out of Israel, And shall
smite through the corners of Moab, And break down all the
sons of tumult.
The word sceptre is a symbol of kingship, and it was Baalam
who connected the Messianic Person with kingship and with a
star. By profession, Baalam was an astrologer. According to
Numbers 22:5 and Deuteronomy 23:4, Baalam was from Pethor,
which was also in Babylonia.
Archaeologists have discovered that the Babylonians kept
many historical records. Many of our ancient historical
records come from Babylonia. As a result of the Baalam
connection regarding the star and the Kingship of the
Messiah, as well as the Daniel connection which provided the
Messianic timetable, these Gentile astrologers from
Babylonia knew about the coming of the Messiah. Having a
timetable from Daniel, the unusual brilliance in the sky
told them that the prophecy had been fulfilled. That is why
they came to Israel asking the question:
Where is he that is
born King of the Jews?
Although they had the Book of Daniel, they did not have the
Book of Micah. It was Micah who prophesied the Messiah would
be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). Since they did not know
that, from their perspective the logical place for the King
of the Jews to be born would be in the Jewish capital of
Jerusalem. They came to Jerusalem asking the question:
is he that is born King of the Jews?
Eventually, this created such a great stir in the city that
Herod the Great called these men into his own palace.
Matthew 2:7 points out that Herod called in the Wise-men
privately and learned of them
exactly what time the star appeared. Herod wanted to know
how long it had been since that star appeared. This was
crucial in determining what age Jesus was when these events
occurred. From the religious leaders, the Wise-men
discovered that the place of Messiah’s birth was to be
Bethlehem and not Jerusalem. Herod sent them to Bethlehem
(v. 8) and referred to Jesus as the young child, using a
Greek word that refers to a child that is at least one-year
After carefully learning how long it had been since the star
first appeared, which was two years earlier, he instructed
the Wise-men in Matthew 2:8b: ... Go and search out exactly
concerning the young child; and when ye have found him,
bring me word, that I also may come and worship him.
Wise-men headed for Bethlehem. But because there were many
houses in Bethlehem, and many two-year-old children, it
would be very difficult to find this Child. At this point,
the star they had seen earlier reappeared, came down and
hovered over the specific house where the young child was
Verse 11 then states: And they came into the house and saw
the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and
worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered
unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
was no longer in a stable where the shepherds had found
them, but were now in a private house. Therefore, the
shepherds and the Wise-men never saw each other. The two
events are separated by two years in time. The Wise-men came
into the house and worshipped Him. This is the first Gentile
worship of the Messianic Person, whereas with the shepherds,
there was the first Jewish worship of the Messianic Person.
They left behind three gifts: gold and frankincense and
myrrh. All of these have Old Testament symbolic
significance: gold is the symbol of kingship–Yeshua is the
King; frankincense is the symbol of deity–Yeshua is God;
myrrh is the symbol of death and sacrifice–Yeshua is the
final Sacrifice for sin. So, while the first line of the
popular Christmas song, “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” is
not biblical, the last line is correct: “God and King and
Even though they were told by Herod to come back to
Jerusalem and let him know where the Child was, God warned
them in a dream not to do so (v. 12). They returned to
Babylonia by a different route, which bypassed Jerusalem,
and they did not report to Herod the Great.
XIV. THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT - MATTHEW
After the Wise-men left Bethlehem, the
angel again appeared to Joseph in a dream. Matthew told the
story from Joseph’s perspective, reporting that the angel
appeared to Joseph and warned him to flee to Egypt and to
live there until they received word to return to the Land
(v. 13). Since they were a poverty-stricken family, where
did they get the income to make such a journey? They were
still in Bethlehem two years later because, apparently, they
did not even have enough money to get back to Nazareth. The
Wise-men gave them three types of gifts: gold, frankincense,
and myrrh. These were expensive gifts, which provided the
income for their journey to Egypt and their sojourn in that
Matthew’s theme is: Jesus the Messiah, the King of the Jews.
That very theme was Herod’s fear. Herod is known in history
as Herod the Great, but perhaps a more proper title would be
“Herod the Paranoid.” He was always afraid that there was
somebody out there wanting to take his throne away from him.
Because of his paranoia, he was always looking out for
conspiracies. During the course of his career, he killed his
favorite wife and four of his own sons because he thought
they were conspiring against him. The Caesar of that day was
Caesar Augustus, who once said, “It was better to be Herod’s
pig than Herod’s son.” Herod was a nominal convert to
Judaism so, as a result, he did not eat pork. Herod’s pigs
were pretty safe, but to be one of Herod’s sons was an
occupational hazard. If Herod even suspected a conspiracy,
Now his paranoia told him there was a two-year-old in
Bethlehem conspiring to take his throne away. When he
realized the Wise-men had no intention of coming back to
inform him where the Messiah was, he took matters into his
own hands. He ordered his soldiers to go to Bethlehem and to
kill every male child from two-years old and under (v. 16).
Why two-years old and under? Because this was the time since
the star first appeared according to the Wise-men. Again,
this is clear evidence that, at this time, Jesus was
Fortunately, Joseph had taken Mary and Yeshua and fled
toward Egypt. While many were killed, the Messianic Child
was spared. They remained in Egypt for one or two years.
XV. THE RETURN TO
NAZARETH - MATTHEW 2:19-23 AND LUKE 2:39
When Herod finally died in the year 4
B.C., an angel again appeared to Joseph. Because Matthew
told the story from Joseph’s perspective, Matthew records
that an angel came to Joseph and told him to go back into
the Land of Israel for they are dead that sought the young
child’s life (Mat. 2:19-20). When the family returned to the
Land from Egypt, the first area they came to was Judaea.
When Herod died, his massive kingdom was divided among three
of his sons. One of his sons, Archelaus, was given authority
over Judaea and Samaria. As hard as it might be to believe,
Archelaus was even worse than his father, Herod the Great.
In fact, when he succeeded to the throne, he killed three
thousand Jews in the Temple Compound during the Passover
By so doing, he desecrated the Passover. He was that bad.
Even his father never went to the extreme of killing people
in the Temple Compound. Because of his reputation, Joseph
decided against resettlement in the town of Bethlehem. He
chose to return to Nazareth in Galilee, which was under the
jurisdiction of Herod Antipas. This is why Yeshua was
referred to frequently as a Nazarene (v. 23).
The settlement in the town of Nazareth in Galilee would
create a stigma for the rest of the Messiah’s life. The
teaching of the rabbis was: “If you want to get rich, go
north. If you want to get wise, go south.” Galilee was
looked down upon by the Jews of Judaea. Those in Galilee
were looked upon as being materialistic and ignorant in
spiritual matters. If one was only interested in getting
rich, then he should go north. But if one was interested in
getting wisdom–divine wisdom, spiritual wisdom–he should go
south, because that was where the rabbinical schools and the
rabbinical academies were located. That is why when
Nicodemus tried to make a defense of Jesus, the other
Pharisees blurted out mistakenly: Search, and see out of
Galilee arises no prophet (Jn. 7:52a). They ignored that
there were prophets that did arise out of Galilee; such as,
Hosea and Jonah. While Judeans looked down upon Galileans,
even Galileans looked down upon fellow Galileans who came
from the town of Nazareth. Nazareth was a town of
ill-repute. In John 1:45-46, when one of His future
disciples was told: We have found him, of whom Moses in the
law, and the prophets, wrote, Jesus of Nazareth.
His response was, Can any good thing come out of
Nazareth? Settling in Nazareth made Him a despised and
rejected individual, but that, too, was in keeping with the
XVI. THE GROWTH OF THE
KING - LUKE 2:40
And the child grew, and waxed strong,
filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
Only Luke records this element because Luke’s theme is the
humanity of Yeshua. The verse summarizes the growth and
development of Yeshua from the age of four until the age of
That is all Luke chose to tell. But other things about the
development of Yeshua can be determined from what is known
of the Jewish religious and social life of that period. For
example, both Joseph and Mary were members of the believing
Remnant of that day, so they were spiritual parents. Yeshua
grew up in a spiritual Jewish home with parents who were
believers in the Old Testament sense. Furthermore, Yeshua
would have gone to the basic Jewish schools as a young lad.
There He would have learned the Jewish Scriptures, with much
time spent in memorizing the Old Testament. He learned the
Hebrew language, both written and spoken. He also learned
Aramaic and Greek, and possibly Latin. Furthermore, He
apprenticed to work in His father’s trade and developed the
skills of a carpenter. Not only was
He referred to as a carpenter’s son, He was referred to as a
carpenter Himself; both Joseph and Yeshua were carpenters.
The above, by itself, does not explain how Jesus knew all
that He did by the age of twelve. The things that He knew at
the age of twelve could not have come from the Nazareth
school system or from the synagogue schools or from His
training through His parents. The secret of how He learned
these things is not contained in the New Testament, but it
is in the Old Testament.
The passage that reveals how Yeshua learned so much between
the ages of four and twelve is Isaiah 50:4-9:
Jehovah has given me the tongue of them that are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with words him that is weary:
he wakens morning by morning, he wakens my ear to hear as
they that are taught. The Lord Jehovah has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious, neither turned away backward. I
gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that
plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and
spitting. For the Lord Jehovah will help me; therefore have
I not been confounded: therefore have I set my face like a
flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He is
near that justifies me; who will contend with me? let us
stand up together: who is mine adversary? let him come near
to me. Behold, the Lord Jehovah will help me; who is he that
shall condemn me? behold, all they shall wax old as a
garment; the moth shall eat them up.
Morning by morning, in the wee hours of the morning, God the
Father awakened His Son and took Him aside to disciple Him,
to train Him, to teach Him concerning who He was and
concerning His mission (v. 4). The person of Yeshua was a
unique type of individual; He was the God-Man.
Theologically, He is referred to as the Theanthropic Person
in that He was both God and man. He was only one person, but
He had two natures side-by-side: a divine nature and a human
nature. These two natures were side-by-side, but never mixed
together. While in His deity, He was omniscient and knew
everything, in His humanity, He had to undergo the same type
of learning experience that all humans have to undergo. In
His humanity, He was not omniscient; He did not know
everything. He needed to grow up and to be trained. God the
Father did that by waking Him up morning by morning to train
Him in matters concerning His person, His message and His
Verse 5 points out that even when He realized that His
mission included suffering and death, He was not rebellious.
He kept His ear open and did not try to turn away backward
or escape His call. When finally the time came for Him to
fulfill His mission, He gave His back to the smiters; He did
not try to turn His back away from the pain (v. 6).
Furthermore, He gave His cheeks to them that plucked off the
hair; He did not try to turn His head away to keep them from
pulling out His beard. Finally, He did not try to cover His
face from the spittle that was being spat upon Him. Verses
7-9 point out that He set His face like a flint
to fulfill His mission. In fact, Luke used that same
expression later in Luke 9:51:
He set his face like a flint
to go to Jerusalem.
As a result of this training by God the Father, at the age
of twelve He knew exactly who He was–the Son of God; and He
knew the Scriptures so well that He was able to debate with
the scholars in the Temple Compound.
XVII. THE VISIT TO
JERUSALEM - LUKE 2:41-50
This was not His bar mitzvah because a
bar mitzvah takes place at the age of thirteen, not twelve,
but it was in anticipation for it. It was a Jewish custom
that on the Passover after a boy’s twelfth birthday, he was
to be taken for his first trip to Jerusalem in preparation
for his bar mitzvah. At this point, he would begin training
in his father’s occupation. In keeping with this Jewish
practice, at the age of twelve, Jesus was taken up to
Jerusalem for the Passover in preparation for His bar
mitzvah. Joseph and Mary did not travel alone, but traveled
with a party. When the Passover observances concluded, they
headed back to Nazareth, assuming that Jesus was somewhere
in the same group.
When they arrived at the first day’s lodging, which was
one-full-day’s journey, they realized He was not there. It
took another full day to return to Jerusalem. They searched
for three more days, so five days had passed since He was
In verses 46-47 we read: And it came to pass, after three
days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of
the teachers, both hearing them, and asking them questions:
and all that heard him were amazed at his understanding and
They found Yeshua carrying on intelligent conversation with
those who were the experts of the Law among rabbis and
scholars. This amazed them all, not only because He was just
twelve-years old, but also because He was from Nazareth.
They could tell that He could not have gained this knowledge
from the Nazareth school system. This was all a result of
His training of Isaiah 50:4-9.
At that point, Mary forgot who He was and, as a result,
began to scold Him saying: behold, your father and I sought
you sorrowing (v. 48). Jesus turned to her and reminded her
who He was. Verse 49 states: And he said unto them, How is
it that ye sought me? know ye not that I must be in my
He reminded her that Joseph was not His real father, but
only His stepfather. Furthermore, she especially, should
have known that the place to look for Him was in His real
Father’s house, the Temple. Obviously, by the age of twelve
He recognized His Sonship- relationship with God the Father.
Another thing should not be missed. It was at the age of
twelve that a Jewish lad was apprenticed to learn his
father’s business, his father’s trade. Verse 49 can be
translated from the Greek as, I must be about my Father’s business. At the age
of twelve, He recognized His Sonship-relationship with God
the Father, and the “business” He conducted was in the
Temple Compound. His real occupation was to be about His
real Father’s business, and she should have known that.
XVIII. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE
KING - LUKE 2:51-52
The last narrative summarizes the
development of Yeshua from the age of twelve until about the
age of thirty or more. He returned with His parents to
Nazareth; and he was subject unto them: and his mother kept
all these sayings in her heart (v. 51). Although He was the
Son of God, He was in subjection to them. This verse clearly
shows that subjection is not a matter of inferiority for, in
this case, there is a superior, the God- Man, subjecting
Himself to two inferiors, two sinful human beings.
Subjection in no way means inferiority. Likewise, when the
wife is commanded by Scripture to be in subjection to her
husband, this is not an issue of superiority or inferiority.
In that case, it is an issue of two equals; one equal
subjects herself to another equal. It is a matter of divine
order and subordination, not an issue of superiority or
Verse 52 points out that Jesus developed in four areas:
first, Jesus advanced in wisdom; He developed mentally.
Secondly, He advanced in stature; He developed physically.
Thirdly, He advanced in favor with God; He developed
spiritually. And fourthly, He advanced in favor
with men; He
developed socially. As with all human beings, Jesus in His
humanity, developed mentally, physically, spiritually and
scriptures are in the American Standard Version unless otherwise
If you enjoyed this Bible study, Dr. Fruchtenbaum recommends the
following messianic Bible studies (mbs):
mbs 009: The Trial of the Messiah
mbs 016: Nicodemus, A Rabbi's Quest
mbs 020: How Did the Wise Men Know? or Is Astrology Valid?
mbs 028: The Olivet Discourse
mbs 031: Highlights of the Birth and Early Life of Jesus
mbs 032: The Baptism and Temptations of Jesus
mbs 035: The Three Messianic Miracles
mbs 036: The Three Sabbath Controversies Between Jesus and
mbs 040: The Parables of the Kingdom
mbs 043: The Confession of Peter
mbs 044: The Transfiguration of Jesus
mbs 048: Mammon of Unrighteousness
mbs 049: The Adulterous Woman
mbs 056: The Triumphal Entry
mbs 060: The Upper Room discourses
mbs 061: The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus
mbs 069: The Agony of Gethsemane
mbs 070: The Death and Burial of the Messiah
mbs 075: The Resurrection of the Messiah
mbs 076: The Ascension of the Messiah
mbs 094: The Sermon on the Mount
mbs 099: The Results of the Death of Messiah
mbs 134: How the New Testament Quotes the Old
mbs 183: The Healing of the Man at the Pool of Bethesda:
mbs 185: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman: John 4:1-42